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Cricket news - Resurgent KXIP face toughest hurdle in playoffs bid
At an individual level there's hardly anything wrong with Punjab.
It was against Delhi Capitals in their tournament opener that Kings XI Punjab's sorry story of heartbreaks began this IPL. As they return to Dubai ahead of Tuesday's (October 20) reverse fixture against the now table-toppers, Punjab have not only put the string of defeats behind them but also managed to stay afloat in the competition, mathematically.
Since their last meeting, more often than not, KXIP found themselves on the wrong side of results decided by the narrowest of margins. Their inability to close out games despite some standout individual performances helping them dominate for the better part of the batting and/or bowling innings became a constant feature of their games, earning them the infamous chokers tag. On Sunday against second-placed Mumbai Indians, they once again made a meal of the chase that they were in control of until their captain and tournament's leading run-scorer, KL Rahul, was in the middle. But with their campaign on the line, Punjab fought tooth and nail to drag the game into not one but two Super Overs to come out trumps eventually, and quite comfortably, for a change.
As such, this was the first time this season that Punjab has won two games on the bounce, helping them leapfrog to the sixth spot from eighth. Incidentally, all bottom-four have six points each, which means it'll only take a couple of good games more to surge ahead but the margin of error is very minimal. Resurgent and battle-hardened are just a couple of terms one can toss around for Rahul & Co. at the moment, but the fact remains that this next fixture remains the toughest hurdle they will have to cross in their race to the playoffs, for which the equation for them still stands at do-or-die every game.
At an individual level there's hardly anything wrong with Punjab. The openers have been in envious form - leading the run-charts - and the inclusion of Chris Gayle, albeit at one-drop, has only freed them up further. Nicholas Pooran, too, has shown his big-hitting prowess to nail down a spot for himself in this frequently-changing eleven. While the hunt for Glenn Maxwell the finisher still continues, Punjab have discovered Glenn Maxwell the offspinner as a more-than-handy option in the powerplay and middle overs. The Australian has squeezed in two tight spells, against left-heavy batting sides in both their recent wins, allowing Rahul the luxury of excess options at the death. The slog-overs bowling is still a major concern, irrespective of who they pick for the job, often responsible for leaving the batsman to do more than their share of work.
Meanwhile, Delhi too have recovered well since their loss to Mumbai Indians despite the many injury concerns in their camp, including the one to their only Indian wicketkeeper recently. Delhi too come into the contest on the back of two successive wins, but have the added advantage of nearly having one foot in the playoffs already. What would please the management more is that they've finally been able to break the 'chasing' jinx with a thrilling penultimate-ball win over Chennai Super Kings.
In Rishabh Pant's absence, that left Delhi's middle order short on experience, opener Shikhar Dhawan stepped up and assumed the role of the aggressor at the top, giving Delhi flying starts and registering his maiden T20 hundred in the process. Pant's impending return from the hamstring injury only makes this already deep batting line-up an even tougher challenge to contain for KXIP's faltering death bowling.
DC's only concern at the moment, probably, is Prithvi Shaw's recent string of low scores. The opener has scored four runs in three recent outings, twice getting out without troubling the scorers in the first over itself. Against KXIP, who have been consistently throwing oppositions off course in the powerplay, Delhi would need the youngster to pull up his socks. Their strength inarguably is their bowling attack, helmed by Purple Cap holder Kagiso Rabada (19) and Anrich Nortje (12 wickets) who have formed a formidable partnership, and are well complemented by R Ashwin and Axar Patel. The two finger-spinners especially, who boast of a terrific record against the current top-three of Gayle, Rahul and Mayank Agarwal, would be relishing this match-up.
When: Tuesday, October 20, 2020, at 19:30 IST
Where:Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Dubai
What to expect: With the pitches in Dubai slowing down considerably as the game progresses, it's been difficult on chasing sides. DC would know it better than anyone, having only just won their first game while chasing. Toss, therefore, assumes greater importance here.
Kings XI Punjab:
Maxwell has made himself useful as a sixth bowling option to make up for his lean run with the bat. It wouldn't be entirely surprising if Punjab offer him a long rope and stick to their winning combination for a third game on the trot.
Probable XI:KL Rahul (C,wk), Mayank Agarwal, Chris Gayle, Nicholas Pooran, Glenn Maxwell, Deepak Hooda, Chris Jordan, M Ashwin, Ravi Bishnoi, Arshdeep Singh, Mohammed Shami
Delhi have signed legspinner Pravin Dubey as a replacement for Amit Mishra, but it's unlikely he'll break into the XI just yet. Rishabh Pant though in all likelihood will make his comeback against KXIP, meaning Alex Carey returns back to the bench and Shimron Hetmyer into the playing XI.
Probable XI:Prithvi Shaw, Shikhar Dhawan, Shreyas Iyer (C), Shimron Hetmyer, Rishabh Pant (wk), Marcus Stoinis, Axar Patel, R Ashwin, Tushar Deshpande, Kagiso Rabada Anrich Nortje
Did you know?
- KL Rahul won Man of the Match awards in all three of KXIP's wins this season.
- Teams chasing have won four of the six contests in the last week. The remaining two, including KXIP's previous encounter, ended in a tie.
- DC seamers have picked most wickets in death overs (24) and have the best ER (9.23) while KXIP has the worst (13.68).
What they said:
"All the players have been fantastic for us, and it's actually a great headache for the opponents. They would think how to plan against DC, who have got so many match-winners in their squad - to really contain and beat us on the day." - DC assistant coach, Mohammad Kaif
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